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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category


In a matter of minutes, our next-to-last exam of junior year would begin.  The room of high schoolers included a few serious students with heads in notebooks, but most of us chatted with one another, just anxious to be done.

“Hey!” cried one friend to a group of us girls sitting together.  “Let’s switch one shoe with somebody else for good luck!”  Giggles ensued as we tried different looks and different sizes, until each of us sported mismatched footwear.


After the exam, imagine our surprise when we were summoned to the office.

Someone thought the shoe-exchange was a means of cheating.  Thankfully our principal dismissed us immediately when we explained our silly scheme for good luck. 

Of course, certain shoes—or any other particular piece of clothing–have nothing to do with success.  Even those who’ve experienced a triumph or two while wearing a certain hat, jacket, or tie eventually find Lady Luck has left the building. 

One high school basketball coach in Indiana wore the same patchwork pants for every game, and his team won twenty-seven times in a row.* 

But then came Game #28.

Much more important than a basketball game or even a high school exam, God has prepared us clothing for life.  Granted, the apparel he provides is metaphorical and made for the spiritual realm.  But it creates much greater impact on our lives than mismatched shoes or patchwork pants.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the armor that Paul described in his letter to the Ephesians, including the belt of truth, the shield of faith, and more.


But our Designer God is ready to provide another article of clothing, mentioned in Isaiah 61:3—a garment of praise.

Now some might wonder, Isn’t that self-serving of God—to offer us a garment of praise so we’ll applaud, admire, and honor him?

Not at all.   Just as we enjoy giving pleasure to others through accolades of their character or actions, we find joy in acclaiming God for all he is and does. 

Praise takes our focus off problematic people and circumstances, and draws our attention to the One who has brought us through every dark valley in the past, and will continue to do so until our life-journeys are complete. 

So what might this garment of praise look like—if it were visible?  I’m imagining a velvety-soft, lightweight cloak stretching all the way to our shoe tops and including a hood—for total coverage.


But in order to enjoy the supreme comfort of this robe, we have to get rid of the irritating clothing we sometimes wear:

  • The scratchy scarf of negativity
  • The constrictive shirt of fear
  • The hot collar of anger
  • The heavyweight coat of worry

We can’t savor life to its fullest in such uncomfortable clothes as these.  In contrast—as research on positivity and gratitude has proven–the garment of praise produces feel-good endorphins, uplifts our mood, and offers hope.

Of course, we have to put it on.  Too often we leave home without our praise-cloaks or it slips off our shoulders somewhere along the way.

Perhaps we could tie it on each morning with prayer and check the knot with prayer throughout the day. 

Perhaps something like this:


Lord, I thank you for my garment of praise—to keep me aware of your presence, happily occupied with thoughts of your attributes and blessings. Help me to always keep my praise-cloak in place.

Thank you that when I’m wrapped in my garment of praise I can experience your highest joy May I never leave home without it.

(Isaiah 26:3; Psalm 112:7, 43:4 GWT)


*Kathlyn Gay, They Don’t Wash Their Socks, Walker and Company, 2013.


Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flicr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pikrepo.com; http://www.pilist.com.

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are you still up?

That was the text sent by son #2 last Thursday evening, close to 10:00 p.m.

An interesting idea had just occurred to him, one that required input from his mother.  Maybe I should say output.

You see, Jeremy is a pastor, and although his church started worshiping together again two weeks ago, their choir is not participating in the services.  His worship leader has been singing solo; Jeremy has offered back-up.

But for May 31st, Pentecost Sunday, he was hoping for more.


First, he remembered a popular praise song released in 1998, Holy Spirit, Rain Down. Jeremy was in high school then and sang tenor on the praise team of the church where his dad (my husband) was pastor.  I sang alto. 

After reminding me of the song, Jeremy wondered if I could record that alto part with an instrumental/vocal track he’d send via email.  He would add the tenor part, and his worship leader the melody.

I reminded him my voice is not what it once was, and it’s been six years since I even sang in a choir.  But I didn’t want to tell him no without even trying.  Besides, how many times must I tell myself, “It. Doesn’t. Have. To. Be. Perfect!”


So on Friday, with Jeremy as my guide via phone and computer, I climbed the learning curve of Garage Band, an APP for making music with vocals and/or instruments—multiples if desired.  You’ve probably seen the results of such efforts on YouTube.  Perhaps you’ve recorded music yourself. 

Once set up, I could record as many times as needed and send Jeremy the best rendition.  But after practicing numerous times, my voice started to give out.  I had to quit.

Saturday morning was zero hour.  Either I’d be able to send Jeremy a decent alto part, or ruin his plan and tell him there would be no trio.  As I prepared to record, my heart started thrumming audibly and my breath coming faster than normal.

What is wrong with you?!  I scolded.  No one else is here in the study; you can record as many times as you want.  Get a grip!

The problem was clear:  A big cloud of nervous self-consciousness had enveloped me.

All I knew to do was pray.

Lord God, this is so silly.  WHY am I overcome with apprehension?  Even if I sing this twenty times and not one effort is perfect, what difference does it make?!


Calm these nerves, Heavenly Father.  Help me to lose focus on my performance and worship you unencumbered.  Remove this self-centeredness.  I want to be lost in the heartfelt prayer of these lyrics—so appropriate right now—and mindful only of you, my audience of One.*

Even before I’d finished, my heart rate began to slow and my breathing return to normal.  I sang the song twice, and sent the second effort to Jeremy.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.


When I confessed to Jeremy my case of senseless nerves and subsequent prayer, he said, “You’ve got a blog post here, Mom!”

Perhaps I do, I thought, since others suffer from self-consciousness also.  I wondered, Are there strategies we could implement to cure ourselves once and for all?

Here’s what a bit of reading revealed:

  • Prayer is the first step.  But we should not expect one prayer to vanquish all self-consciousness forever.  It’s a prayer we’ll likely have to renew every time that nuisance-of-an-emotion sidles up to us.
  • Focus on Who we’re seeking to honor.  The better our focus, the less we’ll be thinking about ourselves.


  • Just as Jesus told Satan to leave him alone (Matthew 4:10), we can tell the author of self-conscious thoughts to leave us alone.

Last Saturday, good enough became good aplenty. God heard my plea, immediately came to my rescue, and helped me calmly and worshipfully complete the task at hand.  I couldn’t ask for more.

_________________________________

Have you ever felt self-conscious?  What helps you to overcome it?  Please share in the comment section below!

Notes:

* “Audience of One,” by Big Daddy Weave, 2002.

  • Kristen Armstrong quote from Work in Progress, 2009, p. 37.
  • Oswald Chambers quote from My Utmost for His Highest, 1935, p. 232.


Art & photo credits: http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (4).


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After a long siege of cold, dismal days in our area, Saturday dawned warm and bright—a perfect morning to tend the planting beds in front of our house. You’d think that inclement weather would stunt spring growth. But it seems all God needs is plentiful rainfall to paint the landscape in countless shades of green.

 

 

But even on a morning of sunshine and birdsong, I am not one of those gardeners who revels in puttering about in the dirt. My attitude is much like Robert Louis Stevenson’s toward writing. He said, “I dislike writing; I love to have written.”

I dislike gardening; I love to have gardened.

 

(Oh, to skip the gardening for a “have gardened” spot like this!)

 

Not that we have fussy plants needing a lot of attention. We purposely chose bushes and perennials that don’t. Nonetheless, they do require a seasonal schedule of fertilizing, occasional pest control, weekly trimming and weeding.

Sometimes I turn my plant-tending duties into a gratitude challenge, to help pass the time more pleasantly. How many things can I notice to thank God for? Of course, a cardinal serenade, the neighbors’ friendly hellos as they walk by, and a welcome breeze are often included.

 

 

Sometimes a new item makes the list, like the tiger swallowtail butterfly that stopped by one time to cheer me on.

 

 

But Saturday I decided to follow Wordsworth’s advice:

 

 

As it turned out, many lessons presented themselves; perhaps too many to share here. I’m prayerful that among the observations below, you’ll find a new idea to ponder.

 

  • Weeds overtaking a garden remind us of such sins as worry, discontent, and fear that can quickly grow out of control and overtake the mind (Psalm 31:13-15). They need to be routed by the calming truth of God’s Word.

 

 

  • Plants that turn toward the sun, in order to absorb energy for photosynthesis, bring to mind the faithful child of God. He turns toward the Father of heavenly lights in order to absorb the strength, encouragement and wisdom the Father offers, thus enabling the believer to grow in spiritual maturity (Ephesians 5:8-9).

 

 

  • On Saturday I clipped the first three roses for 2020. Of course, I wore my gardening gloves to avoid the prickly thorns, and this familiar quote came to mind:

 

 

I love the way a turn of phrase can turn my thinking and my attitude. You too?

 

  • Every summer we enjoy a constant replenishing of sunshine-yellow day lilies, lavender hydrangeas, as well as the blushing pink roses—all perennials that bloom faithfully year after year.

They offer a reminder of God’s grace—the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God—always plentiful, beautiful, reliable, and never-ending.

 

(A perennial flower bed, though not ours)

 

  • Pruning back the low-hanging branches on the dripping cherry tree brought to mind John 15:1-2. In those verses, Jesus compared the vinedresser’s work of pruning to God’s work of cutting away everything in our lives that’s not to our benefit.

Sounds painful, doesn’t it. But instead of dreading such action, we can be happily grateful. The pruning liberates us from all the dead weight that interferes with God’s blessings.

For example, the slicing away of self-centeredness allows the blessing of generosity to flourish (Acts 20:35). The snipping off of negativity permits more pleasure of positivity (Proverbs 17:22).

 

 

And the removal of prideful self-sufficiency fosters the growth of peaceful dependence in the all-sufficient One, God himself (2 Corinthians 3:5).

 

Well, it’s just as I thought. More lessons came to mind last Saturday morning than can be shared here. This post is long enough.

The exercise did accomplish its purpose. Before I knew it, the time for gardening had given way to have gardened. I not only came away with roses for a vase…

 

 

 

…but blessings for my heart.

 

What lessons have you discovered while working in the yard?  Share your experience in the comment section below!

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com (3); http://www.canva.com (4); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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“It is not mere reading, but meditation…

…which extracts the sweetness and the power out of Scripture.”

—James Stalker

 

I like the sound of that, don’t you—extracting all the sweetness and power out of Scripture?

To that end, I chose to follow a suggested psalm for meditating, #116, allowing those verses that apply to speak sweetness and power to my spirit. Then I framed my response as a prayer back to God.

Following is part of the result. It’s my hope you’ll find your heart responding too. You can add your own verse of personalized psalm in the comment section below!

 

PSALM 116:1-5, 7,

PERSONALIZED

 

 

“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy” (v. 1).

Time and again you have heard my voice, O God as I’ve cried out in need. Your answers have flowed in countless mercies of provision, guidance, protection, strength, wisdom, and more.

 I remember: 

  • Your provision of a short-term assignment my seventeenth summer that turned into employment, enabling me to pay a good share of my college expenses.
  • Your guidance to marry Steve, even though he was headed toward the pastorate (and becoming a minister’s wife raised serious apprehensions in my heart).

 

(Just a few years ago–August 1, 1970)

 

  • Your protection from relationships that wouldn’t have been good for me, which I only recognized in hindsight.
  • Your strength to withstand stormy circumstances now and then–like the uncomfortable and stressful moves to new churches.
  • Your wisdom slowly but surely seeping into my soul over the decades, one discovery or lesson at a time—an ongoing process.

How can I not love you, my generous and attentive Heavenly Father?

 

“Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live” (v. 2).

Why would I turn anywhere else? You are the only One who can truly help in every situation.

At the first whisper of your name you draw near–such a precious reality. And just as you’ve promised, you give strength and bless me with peace in your presence (Psalm 29:11).

I’ll never forget that morning during a particularly difficult time, when I randomly opened my Bible first, before turning to the day’s assignment in the study guide. 

To my amazement, the first instruction directed me to a Bible verse already on display, at the top of the page no less.  I could almost hear your voice saying, “This verse is for you, Nancy”:

 

 

Granted, that understanding may not come this side of heaven, but one day I’ll know. In the meantime I trust you, my loving, sovereign Father.

 

“The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow (v. 3).”

Remember the time we rushed Heather (1) to the hospital, after severe pain awakened her in the middle of the night?

Few distresses cause anguish like seeing your child suffer and being helpless to stop it.

 

“Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘Lord, save [us] (v. 4)!’”

 

 

All the way to the hospital I prayed, “Jesus!  Jesus”  Jesus!”  That was all my troubled spirit could muster.

But even such a simple prayer wields power, because your name, O God, represents your character. To call on your name is to trust you will work on our behalf.

By 9:00 a.m., we were heading home, with Heather sleeping peacefully (2).

 

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion” (v. 5).

You have been incredibly gracious over the years.

 I remember: 

  • Scholarships and grants provided for our children’s education.
  • Funds arriving at just the right time, like the unexpected tax return–three years late–that paid for the new refrigerator we needed.
  • God-enhanced moments, as I’ve breathed in the glory of…

…your nighttime sky filled with stars,

 

 

or the tiny wonder of a single star hidden within a flower.

 

 

 …the delight of a newborn grandchild in my arms, and the moment months later when those little arms wrapped around me.

 

 

 …friends who are family, and family who are friends.

 

 

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you” (v. 7).

 I do seek rest in your love and faithfulness, O God, your gracious kindness and wisdom. Even if not one more blessing came my way, I couldn’t complain.

 Glorious and majestic are your deeds, and your righteousness endures forever (Psalm 111:3)!

________________________________________________

 

Now it’s your turn, to add in the comment section below a bit of sweetness and power you’ve extracted from Psalm 116:1-5, 7.

Remember with me the wonderful works He has done, His miracles (Psalm 105:5a)!

 

Notes:

  1. Our daughter
  2. More details of the story can be found in a previous post, “When Circumstances Spin Out of Control.”

Photo credits:  http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; Richard Schruel; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pickpik.com; Nancy Ruegg.

 

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Shakespeare was right when he wrote about “the uncertain glory of an April day.”*  A balmy afternoon this time of year can quickly turn rainy and cold, right?

However.  There is certain glory–even on the dreary days–if we look for it.

That’s what I attempted to do this week, and in celebration of God’s springtime glories, turned my observations into haiku.  (April is Poetry Month, you may remember.)

Following are a few samples.

 

 

Early Spring

Tall, brave daffodils

Stand amidst gathering snow.

Season-confusion.

 

 

Rainy Afternoon

A scatter of books

Takes me away from the gloom;

My corner shines bright.

 

(Our middle granddaughter, 2015)

 

Cloud Skyscapes

Pushed into mounds or

Pulled by the wind into wisps–

Never the same twice.

 

 

Trees

Stable.  Protective.

Majestic.  Strong.  Maker of

Trees is all of these.

 

 

Raindrops on Tree Branches

Sparkling spangles

Cling in a row. Beauty shouts

Praise into silence.

 

 

Young Robin

Lights on nearby perch,

Questions me with keen eye:

“And what might you be?”

 

 

Cherry and Pear Trees

On the avenue,

Dressed in pastel lace, dancers

Waltz on warm breezes.

 

 

 

Worship in the Woods

Newly unfurled, they

Flutter and flounce, clap and laugh.

Leaves praise their Maker.

(Isaiah 55:12)

 

 

Now it’s your turn to share in the fun.  Just compose three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables respectively.

When you’re finished, please share the results in the comment section below.

 

 

And Happy Spring, Happy Poetry Month to all!

 

*from The Two Gentlemen of Verona

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pickpic.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net (2); http://www.pikrepo.com, http://www.canva.com.

 

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It happened again.

Steve and I had just finished our meal in a local restaurant when the waitress stopped by to check on us. We’ll call her Sarah.

“How was your dinner?” she asked.

“My chicken was delicious” I enthused. And then she looked to Steve.

“Well, this could have been better,” and he indicated his plate where a third of his steak remained. “It was left on the grill a little too long,” he explained. The dark, dry cast of the meat provided the undeniable evidence.

Sarah’s smile morphed into furrowed concern. “Oh, I am so sorry,” she exclaimed. “We have a new guy training on the grill tonight. He clearly let that steak overcook. Shall I have the chef fix you another?”

 

 

“No,” Steve replied. “That’s okay; I had enough.”

“Well, if you’re sure…Thank you for being so nice about it. I just took back five steaks from one table. They were not happy.”

“As a pastor for forty years, I know how people can be sometimes, forgetting their manners when they feel wronged. But this isn’t your fault,” Steve asserted.

Sarah nodded. “I’ll get your check,” she announced and dashed off.

Upon her return, Steve handed Sarah her tip in cash.

Now those of you who know Steve may guess her reaction to what she received, because he’s always been a very generous tipper. It’s part of his mission to be God’s agent, blessing other people in the name of Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

 

 

But Sarah’s response was a surprise. She began to cry. We could tell Sarah wanted to say something but she couldn’t speak for a moment.

“You don’t know what this means to me,” she choked. “I know God brought you in here tonight. It’s my fifth anniversary today for being sober, but it’s been a difficult day—not much of a celebration.

“When you said you’d been a pastor, I felt like God was saying he knows what I’ve been through. He sees the progress I’ve made. And now this.” Sarah indicated the bills in her hand as the tears continued to flow.

Now my eyes started to fill. To think: God had used us at just the right time to honor this young woman for her faith and perseverance.

“Well, you have to know,” Steve continued, “as a pastor, and Nancy here, a teacher, we didn’t make a fortune during our working years. But God has blessed us over and over and we just want to bless others—like you.”

“Thank you so much,” Sarah enthused. “I will never forget this.”

Steve and I won’t forget that encounter either. Surely as we left the restaurant our faces glowed as much as Sarah’s with the supreme joy of affirming her.

And Jesus’ beatitude that Paul quoted was proved yet again: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

 

 

In the last few years, scientific research has confirmed those words of Jesus. Now we know that generosity:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Lessens depression
  • Lowers stress levels
  • Contributes to longer life
  • Increases happiness, as the “feel-good” chemicals of serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin are released.*

But that’s not all. When we give what we have, it may prove to be a treasure.

Our gift to Sarah returned a treasure to us of sublime satisfaction and euphoria—results far beyond what we expected. But Sarah’s gift of honesty and appreciation certainly blessed us beyond what she expected also.

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/539952

 

“Give what you have.

To someone, it may be better

than you dare to think.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

* https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-giving-is-good-for-your-health/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.unsplash.com; http://www.pixfuel.com; http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.azquotes.com.

 

 

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Ask a group of young adults to name three of their life goals, and many of them will mention: success in their careers, loving families, and good friends.

Few if any will say, “to lead a quiet life.”

Yet God inspired Paul to write:

 

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

–1 Thessalonians 4:11a

(emphasis added)

 

First, I suppose we ought to establish what a quiet life might include—qualities such as:

  • Composure
  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Gentleness
  • Peacefulness

 

 

Equally valuable?   An understanding of what the quiet life would not include:

  • Boasting
  • Being easily-ruffled or offended
  • Whining and Complaining
  • Bossiness
  • Being argumentative

 

 

It’s easy to see: those who lead calm, kind, gentle lives are the ones we like to be around.  The second group of boasters, whiners, and arguers–not so much.

But there are many more benefits to the quiet life than offering pleasant company for others, honorable as that is. Consider the following:

 

A quiet life produces inner strength.

 

“Strength is found not in busyness and noise but in quietness.

For a lake to reflect the heavens on its surface, it must be calm.”

–L. B. Cowman (1)

 

Have you noticed that those with great inner strength and tranquility are most often grounded in faith?

 

(Grandma Rachel, circa 1910)

 

My grandmother(2) was just such a person.  Her strength through tragedy and challenge came from calm confidence in God and complete dependence upon him (Isaiah 30:15).  As a result, serenity and peace radiated from her life.

She was a 1 Corinthians 13 sort of woman—quietly patient, loving, and kind–not boastful, proud, or easily-angered.  I never heard her raise her voice, gossip, or complain. And she consistently thought of others before herself.

Those qualities of the quiet life Grandma exhibited, still radiate in my heart today.

And that leads us to the next benefit:

 

A quiet life provides resounding impact.

 

 

Sunbeams silently rest on plant and tree, generating photosynthesis and growth. Dewdrops silently form in the night, refreshing the ground. Gravity silently presses all matter to the earth.

Similarly, a life of tranquility provides a quiet, positive influence on others through calm demeanor and gentle speech.

Limited speech is also impactful. We’d never think to apply the adjective quiet to a nonstop talker, would we? Thinking-before-speaking includes this advice:

 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

–Spanish Proverb

 

Columnist Robert Brault seeks to accomplish that feat this way:

 

“I like to think of myself as a finely aged wine,

and one thing that keeps a wine finely aged

is to put a cork in it” (3).

 

A quiet life wins respect (1 Thessalonians 4:11a, 12a).

 

 

Tirades and obnoxious behavior may garner rapt attention, but composure and self-restraint earn high regard.

We’d do well to remember:

 

“The only way to demonstrate

that Christianity is the best of all faiths

is to prove that it produces

the best of all men [and women].”

–William Barclay (4).

 

A quiet life is blessing.

 

1) Composure and contentment result as we grow in tranquility—highly desirable qualities in this world of unrest, discontent, and anger.

 

2)  A quiet life also steers us toward the blessing of maturity, where trivial annoyances no longer infuriate, giving is more fun than receiving, and building up someone else is more satisfying then bragging about ourselves.

 

https://quotefancy.com/quote/1557578/

 

3) The best blessing of all for humble, gentle, and peaceable individuals? The commendation of God himself (Matthew 5:3-9).

 

“How slow many are to learn

that quietness is a blessing,

that quietness is strength,

that quietness is the source

of the highest activity—

the secret of all true abiding in Christ!

Let us try to learn it

and watch for whatever interferes with it.

The dangers that threaten the soul’s rest are many.”

–Andrew Murray (1828-1917)

 

“Abide in me and I will abide in you” (John 15:4 ISV).

 

Notes:

  1. Streams in the Desert, p. 450
  2. I’ve written about her before: https://nancyaruegg.com/2013/02/18/1106/
  3. http://www.quotegarden.com/speaking.html
  4. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, p. 234.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.pxfuel.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

 

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Biology defines life as

“the metabolic activity of protoplasm.”

But there are times when it seems even worse than that.

–Unknown*

 

Truthfully, a day of mere metabolic activity—going through the motions but without any delight or satisfaction—can hardly be called life. That’s simply existing.

What we really aspire to is a life of vitality, purpose, and joy.

The question is, how do we find it?

Some pursue pleasure, accumulate wealth and possessions, and/or fight against the effects of aging. But these activities provide momentary satisfaction at best.

 

 

Then there’s a different kind of living—life in Jesus.

I am the life,” he proclaimed (John 11:25, 14:6).

And millions upon millions of people through the centuries have lived out the truth of his statement—with the vitality, purpose, and joy he offers.

That’s because:

 

Jesus is our source for life.

 

 

To be alive with Christ is to have eternal life.

That could be a curse if it meant enduring intolerable conditions decade after decade, century after century.

But what we’re promised is God’s eternity–heavenly bliss–when we pass from this life to the next.

Until that moment we’re privileged with God’s presence and his activity in our livesIn addition, he delights to saturate our imperfect inner selves with his own excellencies (Ephesians 3:19), transforming us into his likeness.  And that in turn provides delight for us.

 

Jesus is our sustenance for life.

 

 

“I am the bread of life.

Whoever comes to me

Will never go hungry.”

–John 6:35

 

As bread supports physical life, Jesus supports spiritual life.

How? Sustenance occurs as we meditate on him—his attributes, acts of power, and wonderful works.

Just thinking about the vastness of his creative genius, the splendor of his miracles, and the overflow of his blessings breathes new life—strength, stamina, and joy—into our spirits.

 

 

Jesus is our solution for life.

 

 

Breathe in the assurance of God’s truth and the hope of his promises:

“The Lord is strong and mighty, therefore overwhelming victory is mine through Christ who loves me” (Psalm 24:8; Romans 8:37 NLT).

“From him and through him and to him are all things, therefore all circumstances are in the capable hands of my great God and Savior” (Romans 11:36; Titus 2:13).

“With God all things are possible, therefore he will fulfill his purpose for me” (Matthew 19:26; Psalm 138:8, emphasis added).

Such statements revitalize faith and attitude.

 

Jesus is our solace for life.

 

 

Take comfort in who Jesus is:

  • Our indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15). All we have to do is accept.
  • Our constant companion (Matthew 28:20). All we have to do is acknowledge his presence.
  • Our wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). All we have to do is ask.
  • Our burden-bearer (Matthew 11:28). All we have to do is come to him.
  • Our all-powerful overcomer (John 16:33). All we have to do is avail ourselves and remember our enemy is already defeated.

 

There is no protoplasmic subsistence with Jesus.

You are a member of God’s royal family because of Jesus (John 1:9)–even during days of mundane repetition or unrecognized contribution.

As a result of your standing, all things have become new.  You’ve been revitalized into an extraordinary creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and bestowed with cosmic significance, a personalized place in the scheme of meaningful events and divine purposes (Philippians 2:13).

 

 

All because of Jesus.

He does indeed make life worth living.

 

*from Quote/Unquote, compiled by Lloyd Cory, Victor Books, 1977, p. 181.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org (3).

 

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Pretend you’re a crew member on a cargo ship, and the captain has just announced rough seas ahead. That means just walking will be a challenge. Things on tabletops and floors will tumble and roll if not secured, and sleeping will require wedging yourself into position to keep from being tossed back and forth.

But the captain reminds you, there is good news. A full load of heavy freight in the hold will provide stability and safety against the waves. The rocking will be greatly curtailed.

All of us at some time or other face storms in life, and the same principle applies: certain kinds of cargo provide stability–not the lightweight freight of feel-good pep talks, relaxation techniques, or plain avoidance.

Cargo of substance is required, such as:

 

 

Joy

“The joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Simply affirming all the ways God demonstrates his love to us will quickly fill a large compartment with delight.   Last week’s post, Be Glad, included many reasons to rejoice in God.

 

 

Quietness and Trust

“In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

If you haven’t already done so, make space in the hold of your heart for frequent quiet times with God, perhaps by going to bed earlier and rising earlier.

Very soon time spent in his presence and in his Word will become one of your favorite times of day.   You’ll find it transformative also, creating strong bonds of trust with your Heavenly Father. Just ask anyone who has established the habit.

 

 

Promises

“He has given us great and precious promises” (2 Peter 1:4).

But they can offer no stability if we’ve not stored them in the hold our hearts.

“Grasp them by faith,” Charles Spurgeon wrote long ago.   “Plead them by prayer, expect them by hope, and receive them by gratitude.”

Not that a compartment full of promises will protect us from all harm. But our attitude toward the storms of life will be very different as fear is replaced by faith.

 

 

God’s Grace

“It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace” (Hebrews 13:9b).

And what is grace?  I like the old standby definition, an easy-to-remember acronym:  God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

This compartment is worth checking often, to examine the wealth of substantial contents stored there.

Several years ago I surveyed scripture for that wealth and discovered forty-seven gifts tucked behind the door of grace.*

Thomas a Kempis was right:

 

 

So if you don’t feel quite strong enough to face the challenges of 2020, add more weight in the cargo hold of your heart:

  • More joy in who your God is and more delight in what he does
  • Frequent quiet times alone with God, for meditation on his Word, talking with him and listening to him
  • A collection of promises, especially those that apply to your situation
  • Attention to the many facets of God’s grace and how each one impacts your life

Of course, if these blessings could be placed in the cargo hold of a ship, a record would be kept of each compartment’s contents.

The same is true of the cargo holds of our hearts, though for different reason. We can enhance our joy, strengthen our faith, increase our wisdom, encourage our spirits, and augment our worship of God—all as we keep record in a journal or notebook.

 

 

“The deepest satisfaction of writing

is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us

of which we were not aware before we started to write.”

–Henri Nouwen

 

M-m-m. More space for more compartments to add more cargo.

 

What would you put into one of them?

 

*(You can compare your list of God’s graces to mine at Undeserved Goodness Part 1 and Part 2.)

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pexels.com.

 

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“Let all who take refuge in you be glad;

let them ever sing for joy.

Spread your protection over them,

that those who love your name

may rejoice in you.

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;

you surround them with your favor

as with a shield.”

–Psalm 5:11-12

 

Thank you, Father, for each line of encouragement here, presenting truth worthy of contemplation and celebration. To that end this is my prayer:

 

 

I praise you, O God, for being my unfailing refuge—my protector and sanctuary.

Year after year you have:

  • Supplied my needs, like the three teaching positions you provided–each one a miracle (1)
  • Brought me through difficult circumstances, including moves to new communities that initially I wanted no part of
  • Surprised my husband and me with delights we didn’t expect, such as a generous check enclosed with a note, suggesting we enjoy much-needed R & R at our favorite getaway

 

(Aviles Street, St. Augustine, FL)

 

I’m not just glad you’re my refuge, I’m elated! My heart sings in celebration of your perfections, sovereignty, and kindness. You provide unending delight!

You have been my protection, preserving my life:

  • In dangerous circumstances, including that narrow mountain road outside Quito, Ecuador
  • From near accidents, such as that red-light runner who could have sent me spinning into heavy traffic
  • Through natural disasters, like those hurricanes during our forty years in Florida

 

(Hurricane Charley damage, 2004)

 

You have been my protection emotionally, carrying me through:

  • The incomprehensible, like the senseless death of a young friend
  • Hurtful circumstances, when those we trusted proved unreliable
  • Disappointment, as certain hopes were not realized

I thank you, Father, for every time you’ve limited our ordeals so we could endure; and when necessary you’ve given us your strength to withstand every difficulty (2).

 

  

I praise you, O God, that the righteous are not those who always say and do the right thing. Such a standard would disqualify me. Rather, the righteous include those who trust in you and love your many names–Shepherd, Counselor, Helper, and more.

I praise you that your favor includes adoption into your family, freedom from the eternal consequences of our sin, and freedom from guilt—when we ask Jesus into our lives (3).

You graciously give us access to your presence. And when we come you are always ready to listen, uplift, and advise (4).

 

 

You’ve designed us for purpose, to give us glorious satisfaction in life, and day after day you lavish blessing (5), including:

  • The privilege to watch children grow—from first steps to first race, from mere sounds to sentences, from making scribbles to writing stories
  • The delight of old friends we know well and new friends we want to know well
  • Your creativity all around us, whether it’s azure skies or smoke-like clouds, sunbeam ribbons or raindrop jewels, verdant treetops or bare filigree branches

 

 

Your shield of favor also stands between each of us and the evil forces on every side. You are beneath us as a foundation, over us as a shelter, at our right hand as security, before us to lead the way, and within us to provide strength (6).

Keep me mindful of all these glorious truths, O God—truths that make me more than glad. And as this new year begins, may my days be laced with praise to you, my choices motivated by gratitude to you, and my faith be strong in you until that day you take me home.

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. Two of those miracles are detailed in other posts, After the Fact and The Greater Plan.
  2. 1 Corinthians 10:13; Isaiah 41:10
  3. Ephesians 1:3-7
  4. Ephesians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:12; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Psalm 145:14; James 1:5
  5. Ephesians 1:11-12, 2:10; John 1:16
  6. Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 91:1; Psalm 73:23; John 10:3b, 4b; 1 John 4:4

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; naplesnews.com; http://www.bible.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.commons.wikipedia.org.)

 

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